Eternally Elaine: Goodbye, My Book Club Friend

A few nights ago while thumbing through my Facebook feed, I saw that my friend Megan Krome had shared someone’s post. I clicked—and what I read shocked me. Megan’s mom, Elaine Muirhead Hagebush, had died.

The impact of her death didn’t really hit me until the next morning. Elaine, you see, was also my dear friend. I knew about her debilitating migraines, the medicines she’d taken, the new ones she’d tried, and how the meds sometimes made feel like she was on a rollercoaster. But I’d had no idea that Elaine was so sick she’d been hospitalized.

We first met online, on Jan. 13, 2011. Elaine reached out to tell me how much she enjoyed my memoir. She knew about Sister of Silence because she was immensely proud of Megan, who created the stunning book cover. That would not have happened, had Megan’s dad and Elaine’s husband, David, and I not been on the same flight months earlier. I still consider that serendipitous meeting one of the best things ever—because it led me to Megan and her amazing artwork. And later it led me to Elaine, who was simply delightful.

Elaine and I met in person in July 2011, when the Bollinger Book Club gathered together inside her home. She was an avid, engaged reader who loved sharing her thoughts and feelings about the books she read. And Elaine was so enthusiastic about Sister of Silence that she practically turned into my public-relations genie. And when Elaine waved her magic wand, she connected me to her bookworm friends throughout California and beyond.

Along the way, we bonded over recipes and funny stories and tales about our children and, oddly enough, our love of chinchillas. We also talked about domestic violence and its impact on society. That’s how she became board president for Samantha’s Sanctuary, my (now defunct) nonprofit. Elaine was happy to take on that role because she cared deeply about helping abused women and children.

I loved Elaine. She was warm and witty and whimsical and compassionate. She also showed a high degree of emotional intelligence, which is exceedingly rare. Elaine didn’t judge you: she just loved you. She made me laugh and brightened my day with her zany sense of humor, which usually involved a hilarious pet tale.

Like the one about Kayley. The soft-as-silk chinchilla had been relegated to sleeping in the hallway since, Elaine said, “her nocturnal ramblings” kept Elaine and David’s other two children, Rachel and Chris, awake. I told Elaine how Avery, our chinchilla, had chewed through the wooden handle on an antique dresser. She said Kayley did the same to a closet door. “We now have a nice ruffle up and down the door. It’s beautiful really,” Elaine said.

Then she regaled me with another story of an “amazing feat of rodent naughtiness.” I couldn’t stop laughing as I read Elaine’s words, when she wrote about how Kayley had sprayed a family member during the holidays.

It was her exuberant cheer, her desire to befriend others, that made Elaine such a gift to us all. Over the years, I have often recalled that evening in the Hagebush home, surrounded by Elaine’s family and her dear book club friends. And the way she reached out to area bookstores and librarians, promoting my book. All because she wanted to. Because that’s the kind of friend Elaine was. She had no hidden agenda. She wasn’t just nice—she was kind.

I still remember how much fun we had, how hospitable Elaine was, and how she invited me to join her online book club, named—what else?—Elaine’s Bookshelf. There, I met an archeologist, Doug McIntosh, and then his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Dagny. Meeting Doug led me to his parents, who graciously offered to let me use their brand new guest cottage while I was in the Los Angeles area in 2012. They gave me lodging and friendship, taking me to dinner at Knotts Berry Farm. Elaine did that.

Ditto for introducing me to her dear friend Andrea Souza. We became friends while exchanging my books for Andrea’s amazing artwork inside a Tracy, Calif., coffee shop. Then there are Kim and JoAnn and Jocelyn and Tatiana, Miriam and Brenda and Mary. . . . and the list goes on. It is endless, really. Women who knew Elaine, her book club friends, formed from real-life and online friendships. Women who knew her far longer, and who are even more brokenhearted than I am, that this lovely lady is no longer with us.

Elaine loved all kinds of books. She also loved my writing, and kept urging me to write more books. So I did. Not just because of her, but largely so. Because it’s important to know that people want to read what you write. That you have a voice others want to hear. Elaine encouraged my writing efforts, and that spurred me on.

As I sit here reading her words, I can hear Elaine’s voice telling another tale: the one about how she toppled over backwards and fell down the stairs. The vacuum cleaner landed on top of her, sending her to the hospital. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the doctor found some kidney stones while she was there. “Never trust a Hoover,” Elaine wrote.

No one but Elaine could tell a story like that and end on such a deadpan note. She was a natural-born storyteller. So please, wherever you are, whatever you are doing today, please pick up a book, and read a page or two, or even three. For Elaine.

* * *

Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Day 32: Stopping to Smell the Roses

I’m nearing the end of my long, literary journey, having driven more than 2,500 miles to date, from West Virginia to Arizona, and complete strangers have turned into new friends, as I stop and smell the roses – both literally and figuratively. The roses, you see, are the people I meet along the way. Each one unique, with his own fragrance or other gift of beauty.

Like Mandy (not her real name), a single mother of three who did what I did when her children were in danger: she took them and ran. But to do this, Mandy had to give up an excellent job. Although she’s since found another one in Pascagoula, Mississippi, her situation isn’t ideal. And her take-home pay isn’t enough to live on. So she and her brood currently live in a shelter. Not ideal circumstances. Not by a long shot. This woman is not only lovely inside and out, she is kind and smart and clearly a good parent. I met her when I stopped for the night in Mississippi. Even though she was at work, she didn’t have a babysitter so her children were with her. Undeterred and determined to provide for them, she went about her duties while they looked after themselves, until the middle child came up and politely interrupted us.

“I need a time out,” he said, after admitting what he’d done to one of his siblings.

I believe you can tell a large measure about a parent by her child, and that blew me away. How many children honestly admit their mistakes – and ask for discipline? I observed Mandy’s kids while they were there and found them to be quiet, well-behaved and very respectful. Clearly their mother has done a remarkable job. In fact, other guests were enjoying their company, too. Immensely.

But I was taken back in time to 1988, when I covered my first homeless story. Then, a woman and her daughter were living in the mother’s car, after also escaping an abusive relationship. It dawned on me then how dangerous it is for homeless children, whose parents may have to leave them inside a vehicle while they go on job interviews, or who are trapped inside a shelter and often targeted by homeless predators. Those dangers are above and beyond the daily psychological and emotional stressors, of not having your own home to go to. Of not having a routine, or a safe place where you can simply be yourself.

That first story taught me something, so since then I’ve given away my leftover (and utterly too large) restaurant portions to the homeless, and tried to help them in other ways. I know that the biggest percentage of homeless people are themselves either runaways, military vets, or mentally ill. Some of these folks also have addiction issues, often self-medicating to try and relieve their pain. This is yet another danger for the children exposed to these problems.

I’ve also been homeless myself, for a couple of brief moments in my life, but never to the point where I had to rely on a public agency for temporary housing. I was fortunate, because friends and family came to my aid. Mandy? Not so much. Like many women who protect their children when abuse comes into play, her family turned its back on her. Thought she was crazy to go to such lengths to keep her little ones safe.

There is a very long waiting list for Section 8 housing, which is all Mandy can afford, so I’d like to ask for anyone reading this who knows someone in the Pasmagoula area to reach out and help me find Mandy and her children a nice, safe home. So they don’t have to continue living in a shelter, which is not conducive to safety or good health – especially for little ones. You can contact me directly, using Facebook or Twitter or my contact info.

I believe people naturally want to help others. They just have to know when a need exists, and what they can do to help. I believe no one wants to let a hard-working mother like Mandy and her three little ones live in a shelter, so let’s help them.

We can do this!

Note: The photos accompanying this blog were taken on the road, at coffee shops or rest stops, or simply (and safely) while in traffic. Next time, I’ll share some of the stories – and more beautiful scenery, captured with my iPhone – during my visit to the Cochiti Reservation and Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you’d like to guess where I’m going next, and why, I’m hosting a contest at my Facebook group page.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

“You’re Going to Sell a Million Copies”

That’s some powerful positive thinking going on, and it’s what one reader told me in a message a couple of days ago. Oddly enough, I woke up this morning feeling the same way, that belief having taken root in my brain. I sat up in bed and realized that today is the day Shatter the Silence comes out. Yay! So today is going to be amazing. I’ve never sold a million books before, and I can’t wait to see how that feels!

Maybe it’s the power of the story that has bouyed me with that belief. When writing Sister of Silence, the first book in what is now a series, I thought of it as a book for women. But then men began writing to me, thanking me for writing it. For helping them to “be a better man,” as one man put it.

Shatter the Silence is a love story, so that places it in the romance genre, but since this book is a true love story, it’s also memoir. And guess what? Men are loving it! That’s almost unheard of, when it comes to romance. (So I’m told. Not sure if I believe it.) But this book is about a police officer who worked as a deputy sheriff, when I was a news reporter at my first job. I know we live in a time of great mistrust when it comes to law enforcement, and I understand that, but I think this true story will help restore your faith in the men and women who walk the thin blue line.

Maybe I believe this book will sell a million copies because of something Sarah Rosier Nora posted on my Facebook page this morning. “Readers, get ready to laugh, cry, and fall in love all over again. You’ll root for the real couple in SHATTER THE SILENCE!” Sarah works in a library and reads a lot of books, so she knows a good book when she sees one.

I also believe selling a million copies can happen, though, because in less than one hour—at 10 a.m. (EDT)—almost one-half million people will be talking about this book. That’s when my Thunderclap campaign for my newest baby goes live—thanks to you. All of you, on Facebook and Twitter, who shared and asked your friends to support it. All I had to do was ask for your help, and you gave it. Not only did we meet our minimum goal, we exceeded it! Thank you so very much. YOU are spectacular! And I am so grateful. I truly do love my readers, because you give me something to strive for—that next story. Which I write for you. With much love!

I also love everyone who helped me get this book out the door. And cannot thank you all enough. I hope I remembered you all in the acknowledgements section. If I didn’t, please let me know and I’ll do that in the next book. You’ll be joining a long, long list of folks, too, because I’m thanking everyone by name who took part in the Thunderclap campaign.

It’s a beautiful day here in Morgantown, West Virginia. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the weatherman promises it’s going to be semi-warm (What can I say? This is WV, where it could snow tomorrow.) If you want to read a good love story, I’ve been told this is it. Get your copy today!

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══ SYNOPSIS ══

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence is set in 1990s Appalachia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

══ CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR ══

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Is Donald Trump a Rapist?

You may not know this, but many journalists don’t vote. Why? Because they believe holding a political opinion impairs their ability to objectively do their jobs. This is one reason I remain largely silent during election years. Since journalists are at the front line of an election, in order to be fair, we must be neutral. Otherwise, our reporting could be compromised. And reporters must write, not just about the political events leading up to an election, but about the behind-the-scenes stories that help citizens learn the entire truth about a candidate, or candidates.

I haven’t said much about this election because most of it has already been said. But a few months ago I received a private message from one of my readers, asking if I knew about a news article alleging Donald Trump was a wife beater. At the time, I didn’t.

But since then, Trump’s popularity has grown—and people seem so swayed by the man, his money, and his power, that they blindly follow his every word—so I’ve decided to speak up about a topic I am passionate about. That topic? Domestic violence and, more important, rape. Specifically, marital rape—something I feel qualified to speak about, since I wrote a book about it.

You see, the scariest thing about this election for me, personally, is the reaction of Trump’s supporters—do they really condone raping one’s wife? After all, aren’t they’re saying they wholeheartedly support rape when they support Trump, the man accused of such a base act?

One year ago, in February 2015, The Daily Beast reported that during a 1990s deposition, Trump’s ex-wife Ivana, said he violently assaulted her. The account found its way into a 1993 book about the billionaire, and include such ugly details as Trump forcing Ivana to have sex she didn’t want, and intentionally yanking out clumps of her hair during the sadistic act. The book’s author said that when Ivana told her closest friends what happened, she used the word “rape.”

Reading about her horrific experience—which sounds like rape to me—made me shudder.

Sadly, Ivana late recanted. Well, in a manner of speaking.

By their very nature, divorce proceedings reveal extremely private details about a couple’s most intimate moments. Abused women, especially, have been known during divorce proceedings to reveal being victims of shameful behavior at the hands of their mate. These deep, dark secrets are things they would never tell another person—unless that person is a shrink or a doctor. It’s almost like these women have remained silent for so long that, finally, knowing their escape from their batterer is imminent, they relish the chance to speak out about the most vicious, private acts carried out against them during the marriage in question.

Ivana is not alone.

Many women—even married women—claim they were raped, only to later recant. Statistics show it’s not usually because the rape didn’t happen. More often, it’s because the women are still subservient enough that they are afraid to call a spade a spade. Because doing so comes at a very high cost. I know this because I was one of those women. And I’ve talked to dozens of women whose situations mirrored mine.

Based on Ivana’s divorce documents, she was raped. Just because she later toned down her words doesn’t mean Donald Trump did not rape his wife. Here’s what it could mean. In order to feel safe, or to get money (or some other concession) from Trump during their divorce, Ivana had to soften her story. Or maybe, like many women, Ivana later doubted her own reality. It happens. Far too much.

Read the Daily Beast piece. It’s well-written and shows Trump for what he is—a man who surrounds himself with bullies as ugly as he is. Bullies who threaten the press who dare to print such stories, and who say it’s legal to rape one’s wife.

Which is so ridiculous that it would be funny, if only so many Americans didn’t seem to worship the pedestal upon which Trump stands.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Shatter the Silence Book Cover Arrives!

Drum roll, please, for my newest book cover!

If you’ve read Sister of Silence, you might recall that I ended my memoir on a cliffhanger. I promise, it was not intentional. Many readers later wrote, asking what happened after I left “Eddie”—because I simply didn’t say. I was so focused on the positive outcome of having escaped that I failed to outline what happened next. (And since, as statistics show, many women who leave abusive men often later return again, no doubt readers wondered if I did that. Suffice to say, I did not. #WhyILeft)

Shatter begins in 1990 where SOS ends, after I took my children and left Eddie. I hope it answers all your questions. Here’s a synopsis of what promises to be a great departure from the normally dark themes I write about:

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence takes place in Preston County, West Virginia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

Readers will weep as they learn about the collateral damage Ms. Berry and her four children sustained, following ten years trapped in a violent marriage. They will cheer when they see her refusal to live the rest of her life as a victim, and will be overjoyed when Ms. Berry realizes she has, as a single mother of four at the age of twenty-seven, fallen in love for the very first time. Finally, Ms. Berry’s loyal fans will be moved by the tender, intimate moments she shares, as they join this award-winning author on her journey to love and healing.”

You can pre-order Shatter the Silence through Smashwords, which distributes books to places like Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere. (Sister of Silence is also available at these locations.)

And if you order now, Shatter is only $2.99. But right after its May 7 release, the price goes up to $3.99.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Mental Illness and Police Incompetence Lead to Murder, Suicide, in Aspen

Years ago when I published The Deputy for West Virginia police officers, a question arose about what would be considered newsworthy. At the time, the board of directors chose to let me have the final say over editorial content. When a fellow officer was later charged with DUI, I chose to put that information into the periodical. It wasn’t to make the officer look bad; it was to show that the group was transparent. That it wasn’t going to hide bad behavior or look the other way when it happened. That the members would be in the spotlight if they did bad, the same as if they did good.

Transparency–we need more of that now. I believe most American police officers are of high-caliber character: they won’t intentionally break the law, nor tacitly condone fellow officers who do. That said, we have a national problem: police officers who believe a badge gives them the power to use needless violence against others, prestige that places them above the law, and a position that renders them untouchable by fellow officers on the “thin blue line.”

In 1993, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis said an officer’s conduct is not just about transparency—it’s about appearances. Davis, then in private practice, was legal counsel for the West Virginia Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. During a board meeting I attended, she warned officers that their conduct better be spotless both in and out of uniform. Because people are watching.

Her comments occurred after a deputy sheriff in Kanawha County was fired for domestic violence. In the August 1993 issue of The Deputy, Davis said the fired deputy “inflicted minor injuries upon (his ex-girlfriend) and also damaged her vehicle,” when the woman repeatedly harassed his family.

This is a good time to consider Justice Davis’ words, in light of the recent incidents of excessive police violence—and officers who simply overstep their bounds or fudge the facts. It isn’t about race. It’s about doing the right thing, even when it’s not what you want to do.

My next book looks at a case of police incompetence that borders on criminal behavior. You won’t have heard about it, even though it’s been in the news repeatedly. Of course, the media got the story wrong. Hopefully next time, they’ll think twice about accepting as fact the statements they get from someone wearing a badge. Even if a person wearing a black robe has signed off on those statements.

This police misconduct may stem more from inexperience than malice, but the jury’s still out on that. I’ll let you readers decide. Regardless, people lost their freedom as a result, and lives were ruined. That’s not something that can be undone.

Two weeks ago, the man at the center of this case died. We had only met once. I spent eight hours with him inside Arrowhead Correctional Center in April, but I wish it had been longer. That I had known him longer. I wish I had met Dr. William “Trey” Styler before his depression changed him forever. In February 2014, not long after her body was found, Pitkin County police pegged Styler, his wife, and one other woman as the murdering trio who schemed to kill Aspen resident Nancy Pfister. They were arrested within days and spent more than three months in jail—until Trey Styler confessed.

Guilt by Matrimony: A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister was in its final stages when Styler hung himself in his jail cell on August 6, 2015. He was depressed and had been suicidal for years. His widow and I have slaved over this book, trying to be accurate and fair to both Styler and his victim. It’s been a balancing act of the most challenging kind. Two very sick people, both at risk, who ultimately harmed themselves far more than they hurt others.

I don’t write books about breezy topics that make for light reading. I write about real people with real problems; serious, even life-threatening problems. I’m fortunate that Trey’s widow, Nancy Styler, chose me to help write it–and then agreed to let me tell this story candidly. Of course, if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have written it.

This book isn’t what either of us thought it would be at the outset. After my trip to Aspen in April, it morphed into something entirely different. I won’t give away all the details—but I’ll tell you that Aspen is no stranger to suicide. Which should have boded well for Trey and his wife, as well as Pfister. Instead, the people in Pitkin County, Colorado, ignored it, leading to two needless deaths. Not just one. And now we have a new ending, one that will surprise you. Then again, the entire book should, because it’s a far cry from the malarkey that’s been written about this crime.

I’ve given my full support to “the thin blue line” since I began reporting on cops and courts in 1988. Much to my regret, this book also reveals some pretty bad police and prosecutorial incompetence. Guilt by Matrimony reveals how the two, mental illness and police incompetence, played out in Pfister’s murder. It’s an important book. I hope you read it.

* * * *

In November, I will have five books, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

It’s Cold Out There—So if You’re a Tenant Know Your Rights

Welcome to winter in all its glory: snow and ice and subzero temperatures when the wind chill decides to kick in, as it did most of the last week—and as it’s sure to do again. Accompanying these feats of the elements are frozen pipes and broken furnaces or, if you live in an old, drafty house, the need to hang blankets from doorways and use a blow dryer to adhere plastic to your windows. Otherwise, all your heat will escape even if the wood stove or fireplace is in good working order.

“Fine,” you say, “but tell that to my landlord. He’s threatening to evict me if I don’t pay my rent—and I won’t pay it because I’ve been without water for a week and haven’t had heat in three days. I finally bundled up my kids and took them to my mother’s, after my three-year-old came down with pneumonia from being in a cold apartment.”

I read an email quite like this one recently, from a single parent I’ll call “Jane” in West Virginia. Jane read my memoir and wondered if I had any suggestions. As I typed my reply, 25-year-old memories as fresh as yesterday jumped to the forefront of my mind.

I was then a 28-year-old single mother myself, confronting a different water problem: sometimes it came out of the spigot an ugly orange, other times a brackish shade. No matter the hue, it always smelled like rotten eggs. The worst part, however, was that it ruined our clothing.

The landlord told me, in essence, to live with it.

Right! You try carting dirty clothes for a family of five while simultaneously dragging four little ones into a laundromat and see how much fun it is—especially when four of the five are age 10 and younger. And that doesn’t even count my financial outlay, which cut into my already meager income.

Instead, I withheld rent and sued him in magistrate court—where I won, because tenants have something called “rights.” They are very similar to employee rights, in the sense that tenants cannot sign them away.

What does that mean? Just this: even if you signed a lease that says, in effect, “The wiring is bad but if the house burns down, you have to pay the landlord for the damages,” the law will not hold you responsible. Essentially, that portion of the contract is null and void, even if you signed it.

Clearly, I am exaggerating. But you get the point: a landlord can’t write up a lease that holds you responsible for his putting you up in a place that could essentially be a firetrap.

I guess I should give you this quick disclaimer: I am not an attorney. (Although I did sign up to take the LSAT once.) I am merely an author, who happens to know her rights as a tenant. That’s because I love doing research, so when I grew frustrated with my landlord, I began digging away at the library (Remember, this was before the Internet, folks.), until I came up with the state code for West Virginia. And there it was, in Chapter 37, Article 6, in bolded letters: “§37-6-30. Landlord to deliver premises; duty to maintain premises in fit and habitable condition.”

The longer I read, the more excited I became because, guess what? Landlords can get away with a lot, but not as much as they often lead you, the tenant, to believe. In fact, the law frowns on landlords who let tenants live in unsafe or uninhabitable (meaning it isn’t comfortable or clean enough to live in) buildings. West Virginia state law says as much, as I’m sure every other state in the country does. (In Massachusetts, the law even stipulates that during winter the heat inside a rental property can be no less than something like 68-degrees.)

States do this to protect us, people who are consumers, because if they didn’t, many bad landlords would do whatever they want, without fear of reprisal, and their tenants would be stuck. States also do this because safety is a basic human right. If you are without heat or water, your rights are being violated.

That being said, you don’t need an attorney if you are living in a place that is unsafe or unsanitary. You just need to know your rights.

So let’s say you’re like Jane, who has been without water for a week, and heat almost as long. And to make it even more exciting, let’s say you, again like Jane, refuse to pay rent until your landlord fixes the problems. Of course, your landlord, great guy (or gal) that he is, might threaten to evict you. What do you do?

You could use the money you would have paid for rent to pay a plumber or electrician, to fix the problems. Then you present the landlord with copies of those expenses, by way of an explanation for where your rent money went.

You can also head down to your local court. Here in West Virginia, that’s magistrate court. There you ask to file paperwork charging your landlord with neglect and endangerment. (If you don’t have much income, they will even waive the filing fee, so don’t forget to ask about that, too.) And please, consider citing a financial number if you feel he owes you for damages. For instance, Jane would include the amount of her child’s hospital bill, lost wages if she had to miss work due to the landlord’s negligence, and, if she paid someone to repair the furnace, she should include that amount, too.

To do this, you must keep copies of the receipts showing those expenses were legitimate. It’s also important to document any phone calls to and from your landlord, any professionals you hired to fix the problems, and anything in writing (Please, put all correspondence with your landlord in writing, such as an email, so you have a paper trail showing you notified him of the problem!) that shows you’ve done your part, but the landlord simply refuses to do his. Which means you had no choice but to take matters into your own hands.

Yes, your landlord may try to evict you. He may even succeed, eventually. But the law is on your side—even more so if you have children or someone with a serious medical condition living in your home. Here’s the real kicker, though: if you refuse to pay rent because of a serious problem and/or you file a complaint about your landlord and he threatens eviction, that’s called retaliation. It’s illegal in most states, and your state attorney general’s office would love to hear about it.

To be on the safe side, though, it would not hurt to keep your eyes open for a better place with a better landlord, so that if and when you are evicted, you don’t have to go live with Aunt Bessie or sleep in your car. (Trust me, if you have little ones, sleeping in your car will make hades look like a cool dip in the pool. Don’t even try it, especially in wintertime.)

Throughout all your interactions, your landlord may get ugly, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Maintain a professional, courteous tone of voice at all times—even if, like Jane, you could scream because your three-year-old’s coughing is so bad you’re afraid the child’s going to die. Trust me, having your blood pressure rise out of control will only make you feel worse.

Finally, most landlords don’t want to go to court any more than you do, so sometimes all it takes is politely telling your landlord (again, in writing) you know the law requires he fix any serious problem such as being without heat or water. Then ask him to do this, and say what you will do if he refuses to act.

In the end, that’s the best way to handle it. But if you’ve got a stubborn landlord, sometimes going to court—or at least filing a complaint—is your only option.

* * *

I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Weekend Rapes Raise Concerns About Female Safety in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — I was alone for three minutes and thirty-six seconds today before someone else came along. That, ladies, is more than long enough to be raped.

I was walking beneath South High Street, making my way along the rail-trail toward the Pleasant Street bridge, where one of two women were sexually assaulted early Friday morning. According to Saturday’s issue of the Dominion Post, the first rape occurred there about 4 a.m. Since no time is given for the rape itself, this is my best guess, based on the fact that police responded to Ruby Memorial Hospital at 4:21 a.m. (NOTE: If you don’t have a paid subscription to the DP online, this is their free version—but it doesn’t offer all the details the paid newspaper does.)

Police said the first woman was raped here, on a section of the rail-trail beneath the Pleasant Street bridge. To the left is a popular dog park many people frequent.

When I began walking I was in an open area, but I stopped after realizing how deserted it was, and how much vegetation could hide someone—including a woman being sexually assaulted. I’m sure I noticed this, like I always do, because having been raped, I’m both more aware of my surroundings than some people might be and, at the same time, determined not to let that past fear rule my life now.

I turned around and waited to see how long it took for another trail user to appear. A young couple with a puppy soon showed up. They were en route to the dog park—which is below the Pleasant Street bridge, too.

That trail section is fairly well traveled, but there are other sections where I’ve walked and seen no one for fifteen minutes. How many people and how frequently we pass each other often depends on the time of day.

When I first learned of the two rapes, I told my daughter, who, like many women, myself included, often walks alone. And I was reminded of my friend Tori, who told me two years ago that she had once been accosted on the trail by a mentally unstable man. “I reported it to the police, but I still see him around the trail,” she had said when warning us to be careful.

After reading the lead story in yesterday’s paper, I realized the rapist had probably been lurking on the trail, where he then preyed on his two very unsuspecting victims. Who could have been my daughter. Or me. (Except we never walk that early in the morning.)

The second rape apparently occurred at 8:38 a.m., about four hours after the first woman’s rape was reported. According to the newspaper, the assault happened on the trail between Wall and Walnut streets. The female runner was attacked just out of sight of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Ampitheatre, and about a block from the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department. That’s along the portion of the trail that runs behind the Shell gas station located at 1345 University Avenue.

The second woman was raped somewhere near here; my GPS indicated I was almost directly between Wall and Walnut streets when I took this picture.

As my daughter and I discussed the article, I said the areas were isolated. She disagreed, saying all kinds of people loiter near the waterfront. Then she said something that surprised me: “That’s dangerous. If it’s after dark, the buses won’t even let you off at the bus depot.”

She knows this because she regularly uses public transportation, and on several occasions she has asked to be dropped off there—but all the drivers refuse, citing the dangers.

I haven’t taken public transportation around town in quite a while. It’s probably been years, really. However, since I do use the trail a good bit myself, especially enjoying the scenic beauty along the river, I have frequently passed the bus depot. Once a few months ago I saw an ambulance, back doors wide open, as the attendants tried to wake up a man who was leaning up against a wall. He looked like he had overdosed. He is one of many people who are either addicts or unsavory in other ways, who hang out in that area at all hours.

If you want to get a good pulse on who lives in your community, walking around town can help you do that. But you might just want to hop on a bus now and then, too, because if you keep your eyes and ears open, you can learn a lot about what’s happening around town. Much of which isn’t reported on by the media.

For instance, did you know that there’s a gang of drug dealers here from Detroit? Probably not, but if you talk to the right people, you’ll learn all about how they’ve moved into Morgantown, which has become a hub for their assorted types of illegal activities. I learned this two years ago because I talk to a lot of people. And I listen, and ask questions.

In a perfect world, all women would be able to walk alone, day or night. We don’t live in a perfect world, though—and it’s growing worse all the time. So women who choose to walk or run alone must be cautious, alert and savvy.

The second rape happened along this section of the rail-trail that runs behind the Shell station on University Avenue, near Mountain People’s Market

Beyond that, we know we take risks, every time we get into a car, or cross the street, or even take medicine. And depending on the time of day, the levels of distraction, and other factors (such as whether your doctor prescribed the correct dosage), those risks increase. What I want to say is this: if you’re a woman, don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Today, after finding that most local women online didn’t know about Friday’s two rapes, I conducted my own informal poll in real time. I asked ten people I met downtown, mostly women, if they knew about the crimes. Only two people did: both were men. They read about it in the newspaper. That’s one way to be savvy, ladies; keep up with the news. One woman told me today she doesn’t do this because “it’s depressing; it’s always bad news.” Sadly, she’s right—but ignoring all bad, sad news means we miss news stories like this one, that do a valuable good by alerting us to neighborhood crime, which can help keep us safe.

One of the women I asked was waitressing on High Street at the time; I really believed there was no way she couldn’t know. Right? Wrong! She then said she was glad I told her, because she normally uses the trail to walk to work, saving herself parking fees.

After posting this news on my Facebook page this morning, some women balked when I said not to walk or run alone, or to use the buddy system. I get that. And trust me, I’m no different than you: I refuse to let fear keep me from going places alone, even on the trail. But because of my background, I’m more attuned to my surroundings. And I am very cautious. So if you want to walk or run alone, too, then be extra observant when you wear earbuds, buy and carry mace, don’t forget your cell phone (which should, like mine, have 911 on speed dial), and know exactly what to do if you’re faced with an attacker.

Oh, and let’s all hope that the man police arrested, Jordan Lamont Bennett, 22, is the real rapist. I say that because Bennett is black and lately I’ve been reading a lot about race and the police, and thinking back to something that happened to me when I was reporting on the Fraternal Order of Police activities here in West Virginia.

More recently, when the MacArthur Fellows were announced, I learned about Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist at Stanford University who won because of her fascinating work on societal biases, which include this one: “police officers are more likely to mistakenly identify African American faces as criminal than white faces.”

That, though, is a topic for another time. Perhaps next week’s blog.

* * *

I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about overcoming depression from domestic violence; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Robin Williams: “Oh Captain, My Captain,” You Are Far From Alone

Robin Williams is dead. He left behind a world of grief, even though 99.9-percent of us never met him. We knew him, though, as much as we can possibly “know” anyone through a lifetime of work.

All of this grieving is about losing Mork, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and My Captain, but it’s also knowing that if someone like Robin Williams can succumb to suicide, so can the rest of us.

I found this great tribute on Facebook; if someone knows who I should credit, please let me know so I can. Thank you.

With frightening finality, suicide is claiming more lives than ever before. According to The Montreal Gazette, for every Robin Williams, 200 others have attempted suicide—and another 400 people have thought about taking their own lives. This April, the Awake magazine said more than 20 former U.S. veterans commit suicide every single day. While another 950 try to do so each month.

I’ve been to that dark place—but stopped myself just in time, more than once. Many of the kindest, most caring, and artistic people I know have, too. Some of us still battle our demons, mostly in the privacy of our own homes. Sometimes we turn to booze or cocaine or even sex to numb our pain—because even though they will kill us in the end, they “love” us in the meantime. They are far kinder than the world around us, because they don’t judge us.

“We” self-medicate because society continues to stigmatize mental illness and marginalize those who suffer from it. People turn noticeably uncomfortable when they hear the words “bipolar,” “schizophrenia,” or simply “depression.” They tend to not know what to say, which most likely hampered Robin Williams’s loved ones (and those of Phillip Seymour Hoffman) from talking openly about his illness.

The end result? Families don’t want, or don’t know how, to ask for help—for themselves or the people they care about.

I know this, you see, but I’d rather not. During the last year, while I was under contract to produce not one, but two books, I found myself taking care of my adult daughter, who has gone missing at different times in her adult life. She simply dropped off the map, and we often didn’t know if she was dead or alive.

My daughter is fine, of course. Yet she talks to people who aren’t there, pens thousands of words of poetry and prose at a time, and sits and stares at pictures of people for hours on end. “I’m sending him a message,” she says, when I ask what she’s doing.

She insists she is normal and healthy. Yet she refuses to take a single pill, see a doctor, or give out any private details for fear the government may find her. The brief moments of brilliance we all glimpsed in her as a child still shine through at odd moments, but they are growing more and more tarnished. Every so often, she says she has nothing to live for—and that’s when I really begin to worry.

My family is no stranger to depression or other forms of mental illness. In December 2013, my sister’s suicidal efforts finally paid off. At first glance, Lisa’s death didn’t look like suicide. I believe that’s what it was, though. After a lengthy battle that was born of alcohol, nursed with narcotic painkillers, and which morphed into a full-blown addiction of God only knows what, the drugs did her in.

I had seen her a month earlier, when she told me she didn’t care if she died. It wasn’t until after her death that I realized: Lisa had probably been depressed for decades. I wish we could have traded places, that she would have checked herself into the psych hospital that saved my life, back in 1991, or that she would have followed in my footsteps and gotten the help she needed.

Maybe if we all stopped being so judgmental, she would have. Or maybe, instead of having the entire world mourn his loss, Robin Williams would have ascended a stage somewhere, and talked candidly about what it’s like to fight this demon called depression.

If he had, we would have cheered. He would have received a standing ovation. And he’d still be alive.

* * *

I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about overcoming depression from domestic violence; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

From the Front Lines: Breaking Away From A Bully

It couldn’t be more ironic if we had been reading lines from a script.

Today’s early morning drive along Route 7 was pleasant enough, as I wound my way from Morgantown, W.Va., to Kingwood. It even included a serene interlude with an old friend at a Reedsville café. From there I continued driving east, to hear Judge Larry Miller sentence a man convicted of first-degree murder in a case of deadly domestic violence.

But before I could leave Kingwood and return home I had to file a police complaint–after I found myself facing a bully who wouldn’t back down.

* * *

I was sitting in the hallway outside Preston County Circuit Court when I saw her. I didn’t miss the cold glare in my direction, but I ignored it. Instead, I looked away and continued chatting with another reporter. Everyone was ushered into the courtroom not long after, where we sat through Denny Ervin’s hearing. I wanted to write about its outcome but instead I’ll direct you to two other worthwhile news reports.

And simply say this: Denny Ervin is an animal, and I have emails from his exes that prove it. Emails I’ve written about in earlier blogs. He carried out acts of terrorism that no one should have to endure, and a life sentence without mercy is too good for him.

But that’s all I’m saying about Denny because I’m writing about my personal experience with a different bully, and how I handled it.

I’m pretty sure Dr. Phil would approve.

At the hearing’s end, everyone filed out of the courtroom and I saw her. Standing there, with that same intimidating stare. Her body language was equally threatening, and I felt the need to step to the side just to avoid her. She tried to engage me, as I suspected she might, but I cut her off, using humor to try to defuse the situation.

“Hey, thanks for reading my column,” I said with a smile and a thumps-up sign.

My humor fell flat. She said something which in legal terms would probably qualify as an assault. I couldn’t say now what it was, but I do know it was a threat of some kind or other, designed to cow me into keeping silent about thirteen years of domestic terrorism that began when I was a teenage bride.

I looked her directly in the eye. “If you ever contact me again, I will go to the police.” I was speaking about her periodic and harassing Facebook messages—messages designed to scare me and assassinate my character. Full of comments such as, “you can’t rape the willing.”

Then I walked right past her.

* * *

In 1999 I drove my daughters to Ruby Memorial Hospital and waited there with them because their stepmother was having problems during her pregnancy. They were really worried about her and their unborn half-sibling, so I took them. I didn’t just do it for my daughters; I did it for her. I believed it was the humane thing to do, the right thing to do, and a simple act of kindness. I also thought it might engender some goodwill from a woman who has hated me since she married my children’s father. Hoped it might show her I wasn’t the evil witch my ex made me out to be, and that I had a heart.

I always did. Before he remarried, whenever my children grumbled about another one of their father’s girlfriends, I tried to encourage them to see the bright side: “Look at it this way. It’s just one more person to love you.” I did the same thing with his new wife. Besides, with a woman around, I believed they stood a better chance of being protected from his violence.

* * *

In the courthouse basement after the hearing I stood chatting with two reporters. By the time I left the building, she was there. Waiting for me. I knew that the minute I saw her. She made sure I couldn’t reach my car without passing her, because she intended to continue intimidating me, to issue more threats. I did the same thing I did throughout most of my first marriage: I turned the other cheek.

She followed me, her voice louder, trying to force me into an ugly confrontation. That’s when I did it. I wheeled around to face her.

And said the only thing I’ve wanted to since 1999, not long before she went to the hospital for prenatal problems. “You let that man abuse my children until social services got involved and removed them from your home.” I raised my arm and pointed directly at her. “You let him do that!”

“I wasn’t at home,” she said.

Disgusted, I turned to go. She tried to follow me, spewing whatever threats she felt compelled to utter. By then the crowd that had gathered outside the courthouse could hear her yelling. Everyone was watching us. Even a court bailiff had come outside to see if there was a problem.

This is why I told my story,
and why I won’t stop telling it.

“Stay away from me!” I said, headed for my car. She followed me, still chattering. I opened my door, stopped, and shut it. Turning around, I walked past her.

“Go ahead, go tell the police,” she taunted.

It was great advice.

* * *

My readers usually wonder what happened after Eddie and I divorced. Many have even written to ask me. It’s hard to talk about and even more difficult to write about because Eddie and his new wife cost me a lot. I left the best job I’d had up to that point, in May 1999, and traveled 3,000 miles to help my daughters after they were forced to leave their father’s home.

Those are a few of my losses. But my children lost even more.

I spent the intervening years with this woman taking issue with me and now, my memoir—which doesn’t give Eddie’s real name, and which took place years before she ever met him.

I’ve contemplated it, and this is what I believe: it must be really hard to stay married to a man whose first wife has accused him of such horrible atrocities, and has the evidence to prove it—in the form of his own words. If you have to live with that lie, trying to convince yourself he’s a good guy, then you have no choice but to hate the woman he spent thirteen years raping. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and it’s something abused women do to survive.

So really, I pity her. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let her bully me. Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. I will not be a doormat. For anyone—male or female.

* * *

I have three books, and will soon have four. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is being used in colleges and some high schools; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), due out in July 2013.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”